Just two years ago weightlifting watchers were calling Pat Mendes the "world's strongest teenager" after he bench-pressed more than 500 pounds. Now the 21-year-old top-ranked American lifter has another distinction: He is the first U.S. Olympic hopeful to test positive for human growth hormone.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced on April 16 that Mendes tested positive in two tests for HGH in February and would be suspended from competition for two years. More important for the wider sports world, Mendes conceded that the test was accurate.
Since the NFL and NFLPA agreed to include blood testing for HGH in their collective bargaining agreement last summer, the efficacy of HGH testing has been a bone of contention. The plan to test players stalled as the union argued that the science behind the testing was opaque and that the test itself was ineffective. In truth, there may not be a more scientifically documented test than the one for HGH; the background science is publicly available in scientific journals. However, at one point effectiveness was a problem. The test was first used at the 2004 Olympics, but because of a limited detection window there were no positives found until British rugger Terry Newton was caught in '10. The technology, however, has improved rapidly, and Mendes is the ninth athlete worldwide to have come up positive.
The Mendes announcement came just as the NFL and the NFLPA were meeting in New York City to discuss, among other things, HGH testing. His test result and admission, said Travis Tygart, CEO OF USADA, "confirms there's no legitimate reason for this test to not be put in effect in the NFL and other pro sports."